CHICAGO (AP) - The Los Angeles Dodgers are off to their best start in years, and manager Don Mattingly thinks Bobby Abreu makes the NL West leaders even better.
Abreu signed with the Dodgers on Friday, insisting he was OK with a reserve role after years as a regular with the Angels, Philadelphia and the New York Yankees. The move gives Los Angeles another seasoned lefty bat on the bench to use late in games.
``I'm just happy to be here,'' Abreu said. ``It's all about the guys we have here. I heard about it, but now that I'm here, you can see all the young guys - we have such a good talent. It's good to be here and good to be back in the National League.''
The 38-year-old Abreu had been relegated to part-time duty with the Angels and hit .208 in 24 at_bats before he was let go last Friday. He didn't have to go very far to find another job, joining the surging Dodgers after they won 17 of their first 25 games for their best start since 2009.
``Bobby's a guy, obviously, who's been a great hitter his whole career, and kinda makes us, we feel like, incrementally a little bit better,'' said Mattingly, who was on the Yankees' coaching staff for part of Abreu's stint in New York. ``He gives us a chance to be a little bit better.''
The Dodgers will pay $401,311 of Abreu's $9 million salary for this year, leaving the Angels with the remaining part of the final season of a $27 million, three-year contract. Infielder Justin Sellers was optioned to the Triple-A Albuquerque to make room on the roster.
Abreu is a career .293 hitter with 284 homers, 1,330 RBIs and 393 stolen bases. He made his major league debut with Houston in 1996 and is returning to the National League for the first time since he was traded by the Phillies to the Yankees in 2006.
Abreu said the transition to the NL should be no problem, and he is fine with his bench role, too.
``You just have to get used to it,'' he said. ``The good thing is we talked about it and I know what my role is over here. It's going to be no problem. I'll be ready for every opportunity I have to swing the bat or play defense.''
Mattingly was New York's hitting coach when Abreu joined the Yankees six years ago and served as Joe Torre's bench coach for the 2007 season. So when Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti asked him about adding Abreu, Mattingly felt he had a good idea of how the veteran would fit in with the team.
``You hear the rumors Bobby's bad in the clubhouse. I've never seen any of that,'' Mattingly said. ``To me, he was the opposite. With Melky (Cabrera) and Robby (Cano) over in New York, he's the guy that helped both of those guys with the strike zone, helped those guys out. I never saw him be a bad teammate, so that was one of the things I wasn't worried about.''
Abreu was available for Friday's game against the Chicago Cubs on Wrigley Field, and Mattingly also had another option in his bullpen. Right-hander Ronald Belisario was reinstated from the restricted list on Thursday after he served a 25-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy, and Los Angeles designed reliever Mike MacDougal for assignment to make room on the roster.
``We know who we're going to late. Beli's early in the game,'' Mattingly said. ``Right now his role would be to get out of an inning. If a guy gets beat up early, we'd go right to Beli.''
Mattingly said the Dodgers would like to keep MacDougal if he isn't claimed by another team.
AP freelance writer Travis Miller contributed to this report.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap